The 48th Annual GRAMMY Awards Roundup: Jazz Field
The GRAMMY Awards honor recordings in 108 categories across 32 fields, from rap to classical. To help readers get a better sense of the breadth of the nominees and the wealth of recordings they've created over the last year, GRAMMY.com has prepared these field Roundups, which give quick details on the nominees in an easy-to-read format.
The nominees for BEST CONTEMPORARY JAZZ ALBUM draw on everything from silent film star Fatty Arbuckle to Ornette Coleman for inspiration. Trumpeter Dave Douglas' Keystone was inspired by the much-maligned Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle's films; a companion DVD combines his music with Fatty And Mable Adrift. Frenetic sax and banjo runs, down-home fiddlin', Celtic harmonies and hoedown rhythms — it must be Bill Evans' Soulgrass, a unique summit of ace country pickers like Béla Fleck, Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas with jazz heavies like John Scofield, Vinnie Colaiuta, and Victor Wooten. Developing a motif using layered sounds, solo improvisations and a wide variety of tones from lyrical folk to thrashing electronics, the Pat Metheny Group's The Way Up succeeds in integrating its sonically complex, multi-tempoed episodes into a pleasing, even inspiring, whole. To record The Spirit Music Jamia: Dance Of The Infidel, Meshell Ndegeocello invited jazz heavyweights like Don Byron, Wallace Roney and Jack DeJohnette as well as vocalists Cassandra Wilson and Lalah Hathaway to create this dreamy, minimalist fantasia. With its mix of originals and tunes by Sheryl Crow, Ornette Coleman, and Led Zeppelin, the Joshua Redman Elastic Band's Momentum brings new colors and textures to the fusion of pop and jazz; featuring trumpeter Nicholas Payton and bassists Flea and Ndegeocello.
Not ladies' choice but choice ladies make up this year's nominees for BEST JAZZ VOCAL ALBUM. On J'ai Deux Amours, Dee Dee Bridgewater leads a tour of Parisian cafes, transported by accordion player Marc Berthoumieux. Lady Day may have sung the songs on Blueprint Of A Lady — Sketches Of Billie Holiday, but Nnenna Freelon swings them in whole new directions, as on the reggae-fied "All Of Me" and the segue of "Strange Fruit" into the Latin rhythms of "Willow Weep For Me." What better than noir to depict the McCarthy era; on Good Night, And Good Luck, Dianne Reeves sets the scene in a smoky, dimly lit club using standards from the '50s to reflect George Clooney's film about Edward R. Murrow. You don't need to speak Portuguese to fall in love with Brazil, you just need Luciana Souza's Duos II with its songs by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Caetano Veloso, Souza's godfather Hermeto Pascoal, her parents and herself sung with a revolving quartet of guitarists. From the opening wordless a cappella vocal introduction on "Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise" to the closing "Devil May Care," Tierney Sutton's I'm With The Band relies on musical improvisation rather than vocal pyrotechnics to beguile the listener.
Pianists and saxophonists may monopolize the nominations for BEST JAZZ INSTRUMENTAL SOLO but these tracks demonstrate that behind every great soloist is a great band. No matter how many times it's been recorded a virtuoso pianist like Alan Broadbent can bring new meaning to "'Round Midnight" (taken from his album of the same name) when backed by a rhythm section the caliber of bassist Brian Bromberg and drummer Joe La Barbera. Saxist Ravi Coltrane stretches his ballad chops on his moody solo on "Away" (from In Flux) penned by bassist Drew Gress, combining muscular tone and thoughtful spontaneity. Herbie Hancock does double-duty on Terence Blanchard's Flow, as producer and on "The Source" as star soloist, whose improvisation serves as the pivot, changing the track from a moody, mid-tempo piece to a percussive, cascading rush of notes. With his warmer, rounder tone, saxist Branford Marsalis takes a respectful approach to "A Love Supreme — Acknowledgement" (from Coltrane's A Love Supreme Live In Amsterdam), proving the original is not only a great performance but also an outstanding composition. Recorded in Boston four days after the attack on the World Trade Center in a concert he almost cancelled, Sonny Rollins uses "Why Was I Born?" from Without A Song — The 9/11 Concert as a vehicle for his big tenor sax sound: propulsive, endlessly inventive, crowd-rousing.
A quintet of well-established working groups comprises the nominees for BEST JAZZ INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM, INDIVIDUAL OR GROUP. One of the '80s original Young Lions, trumpeter Terence Blanchard has given his young sidemen the freedom to write and arrange Flow with its funk grooves, electronica, and chants with his vibrant trumpet soaring over it all. An adept work of chamber jazz, Billy Childs Ensembles' Lyric presents charming melodies intertwined with inventive harmonic voices propelled by sprightly rhythms, played by various combinations of a jazz combo featuring Bob Sheppard on reeds and an octet of strings, reeds and French horn; individual tracks were nominated for Best Instrumental Composition and Best Instrumental Arrangement. Blues, ballads and bop are the building blocks of modern jazz and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis displays mastery of his craft in constructing Live At The House Of Tribes with itsstandards by Monk, Bird and Cole Porter. When at one point the audience noise on Wayne Shorter Quartet's Beyond The Sound Barrier sounds more appropriate to a fireworks display, you know you're hearing a working quartet preserved at its peak; recorded direct-to-hard-drive. On What Now?, this drummer-less quartet — pianist John Taylor and bassist Dave Holland, flugelhorn player Kenny Wheeler, and tenor saxist Chris Potter — keep perfect time, the rhythm players propelling the horn players' lyrical and relaxed presentation of waltzes and ballads.
Even the most straight-ahead arrangements by the nominees for BEST LARGE JAZZ ENSEMBLE ALBUM have been influenced by contemporary pop tunes, world beats, or the avant garde. At the core of Dave Holland Big Band's Overtime is one of the jazz world's longest surviving quintets, but extra horns enables Holland to write charts with lusher chords moving with a subtle swing or in-your-face brass sections over funky, off-kilter rhythms. The John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble's A Blessing shows Hollenbeck's skill at uniting the music of a half-dozen cultures while leaving space for equally wide-ranging improvisations. Recorded at a tribute to Maynard Ferguson, the Bill Holman Band's Live demonstrates the veteran arranger's knack for both the expansive and intricate as demonstrated on charts for a rousing "Donna Lee," an impressionistic "A Day In The Life" and a hauntingly beautiful "The Bebop Love Song." On I Am Three, members of the Mingus Big Band, Orchestra & Dynasty have taken the same liberties with the master's works that jazz musicians take with the American Popular Song, combining their own artistry with the Mingus' music in new ways. For Home Of My Heart, flugelhornist Chris Walden wrote classic big band charts for the Chris Walden Big Band that spotlight the soloists on material ranging from Christopher Cross' "Rainy Day In Vancouver" and Astor Piazzolla's "Nonino" to "How Long Has This Been Going On?" sung by Tierney Sutton.
The nominees for BEST LATIN JAZZ ALBUM combine Latin rhythms and jazz standards with musical elements from a variety of cultures. A Cuban lullaby, a French ballad, and "Motherless Child" find common ground on Time Was — Time Is thanks to conguero Ray Barretto's inventive arrangements and the horn players' sympathetic solos. The Caribbean Jazz Project's two-disc Here And Now — Live In Concert showcases both the wide range of the mallet percussionist Dave Samuels' compositional palette, from the serene "Picture Frame" to the fiery "Rendezvous," as well as his adept rearrangements of tunes by Monk, Trane, Dizzy and the Duke. ...And Sammy Walked In shows conguero Sammy Figueroa And His Latin Jazz Explosion to be hard boppers with their funky "Syncopá O No" and "Bolivia" as well as soulful balladeers on "Mirage." Pianist Eddie Palmieri's Listen Here! mixes a program of originals and jazz standards by Monk, Silver, and Eddie Harris played by his working band and guest all-stars like John Scofield, Nicholas Payton, and Regina Carter to demonstrate that jazz and Latin are two sides of the same coin: American music. Each track on Cuban-born keyboardist Omar Sosa's Mulatos is polyrhythmic and multi-themed, with a kaleidoscope of colors produced by a variety of clarinets, tabla, oud, and lute as well as keyboard-triggered samples and scratching.